People often say that laughter is therapy for the soul. Just ask Lean Jean; she’ll tell you that these folks are absolutely right. It’s her favourite thing and it definitely makes her look younger.
“Once I get a good laugh, I’m good,” Jean said with a grin.
It’s no surprise that she is a caregiver. She loves helping others and she knows how to make people’s day brighter. And, she started at an early age.
“I was in my teens when I realized that I was the kind of person who cared more for people than myself. I’m a certified caregiver. I take care of the elderly and I’ve worked in this field for five years. I’m also an early childhood teacher and nanny,” the 31-year-old said.
“I love it. When it comes to children, I love their energy and excitement. I always tell people I’m surprised that I only have one child. Children can make you laugh despite the mood you’re in,” she explained.
Her life isn’t picture perfect. She dropped out of secondary school and Jean said it’s one of her worst decisions. Fortunately, she’s working on turning her life around.
“I did the Early Childhood course at the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC) and it was extremely difficult. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I had already paid so much to do the course. Quitting would have been a waste of my time because I wouldn’t get that money back,” she explained.
“I had to do a lot of research and there were deadlines to meet. It was hard, believe me when I tell you this. This course brought tears to my eyes but I overcame it,” Jean said with a sigh of relief.
The taste of success was incredibly sweet and she embraced it.
According to her, “I’ve taken on being a caregiver for the elderly more, however. I also did a government programme called the National Enrichment Learning Programme (NELP).”
“A lot of people ask me how I can take care of the elderly. I guess it’s probably what God chose for me. I like their company and I like caring for them. They always have stories to share; the last lady I worked with made me laugh a lot,” she added.
She admitted that it’s “not a job for everyone” however.
“There are days when it is challenging but all in all, I do not find it is a bad job. There are certain people who cannot do that job at all because you see, the smell alone, for example, is too much for them. They cannot deal with the mess (urine, etc.) but I can handle it,” she said.
Now, she’s just praying for a door to open. Like many others, Jean felt the impact of COVID-19. She lost her job recently and it’s been quite a challenge for the young mother. But, she’s a fighter.
These days she sells by the roadside and according to her, she’s doing what she has to do in order to get by.
“That came about late last year. I first started selling dhals, in fact I was making them and my boyfriend would go and sell them. Many times, people would tell him you have food, but what about the drinks, so we decided to try it. We started small but then we grew, that’s how we ended up here (opposite the Cathedral). Normally he’s the one who’s there throughout the day,” she said.
The sun was extremely hot that day and she stood by her cooler patiently waiting for her next customer. It’s not the easiest job, especially when so many others are selling the same thing, as they too want to make a dollar.
“When I first started, I would do no more than 25 dhals I believe. I would get up early in the morning to prepare; I’ve been up since after two in the morning. It was going well, but now people are complaining because of COVID so now we just do 10. Sometimes the 10 sells, sometimes it doesn’t, but we don’t complain, we are still surviving. God has been good to us,” Jean stated.
It was easy for her to turn to cooking as she’s always loved it. Thankfully, she’s good at it.
“It’s one of my main passions. I was raised by a lady in Morne Du Don and she does roti shells. Whenever she got up on mornings, I’d get up to help her. I used to watch her do a lot of things, like macaroni and cheese. That’s where I learned to do these things. I also learnt from a former sister-in-law. She’s a caterer so I used to go at her home a lot and I would be watching every little thing she did,” she added.
But selling by the roadside was not easy at first.
“I will be honest, when I first started, I didn’t want to do it because of people’s negativity. Persons might say ‘that’s what she’s doing?’ But at least I’m still able to do something. I don’t have a big job but doing this still does something for me. I can recall someone telling me that as long as what I am doing is providing for me, I don’t need not worry about people and their thinking. That’s when I realized it is true and I continued,” she explained.
Working by the roadside has opened her eyes. It certainly showed her that life is as unpredictable as ever.
“You never know where life will take you because I never thought I would be here one day doing this,” Jean said.
For now, she’s holding on to what she has but she’s looking forward to a brighter future.
“I plan to find work in any of the fields where I’m certified or to find another job no matter what it might be. I want a better life for myself and my daughter. There are other things I want to pursue. For example, I really want to do the Community Health Aid course at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. I’m not giving up on that and I think that’s where the door will open up for me,” she said.
“In the future, I’d like my own business. I’d like to have an agency that focuses on elderly care and childcare,” Jean added.
Although times are tough, she wants persons to know that there is always hope.
“If there is one thing I know and I’ve always said it to myself is that nothing lasts forever. No matter what tribulation somebody may be going through, there’s always a day the sun will shine and things will get better,” she said in closing.